Committing to careers education: securing its place in your school’s curriculum
In last month’s article I put forward a case for careers education to be included in the curriculum for all pupils, as part of a fully comprehensive careers programme. Up until a few years ago schools had a statutory duty to provide careers education in years 7 to 11 but now the decision has been left to individual schools. In this article I set out a number of practical steps a careers leader can take to ensure that all pupils in their school receive good quality careers education, to equip them with the knowledge and skills to plan and manage their careers on a lifelong basis.
In December 2019 I published an updated history of the development of careers education in schools, which concluded with a critical examination of its current position and a suggested strategy for improving this aspect of career guidance. Many schools already provide good quality careers education for all their pupils and the aim of the proposed strategy is to bring all schools up to the level of the best. The actions I propose are fully compatible with the current Careers Strategy and would serve as a supplement to the actions within it.
The strategy for improving careers education in schools that I propose would apply nationally but there is nothing to stop proactive careers leaders from taking action in their own schools without waiting for a national programme.
In summary, the strategy I have proposed contains ten recommendations, as follows:
1. The DfE should reinstate the statutory duty on schools to provide careers education and extend the requirement to age 18.
2. The Gatsby Foundation should amend the Benchmarks to include an explicit expectation that schools should provide a planned programme of careers education for each and every pupil, including both work in other subjects (ref. Benchmark 4) and a discrete provision.
3. The CDI, the PSHE Association, Gatsby and The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) should prepare and promote a new framework for careers education.
4. The DfE and the CEC should extend the network of careers hubs to cover the whole country and build an infrastructure to drive developments at a local level.
5. The DfE should continue the careers leader training programme beyond 2020.
6. The DfE should encourage providers of initial teacher education to include an introduction to career guidance in their programmes for trainee teachers.
7. The DfE should encourage all schools to include sessions on career guidance in their programmes of CPD.
8. The DfE, the CEC, Gatsby and the Quality in Careers Consortium should actively promote the Quality in Careers Standard as an external validation of achieving all eight benchmarks.
9. The DfE should make development funding available to all schools, linked to a commitment to work towards, and achieve, the Quality in Careers Standard.
10. The DfE should require all schools to publish details of whether or not they have achieved the Quality in Careers Standard.
Clearly it would be helpful if the DfE and other organisations identified in this proposed strategy could commit to this strategy and work together to implement it. In the meantime careers leaders could take many of these actions forward in their own schools without waiting for Government action. Referring to the same ten points above, a careers leader could proactively:
1. work with the senior leader responsible for the curriculum to ensure that the curriculum includes careers education for all pupils and students in years 7 to 13;
2. work with the senior leader responsible for the curriculum to ensure the school is committed to linking subject teaching to careers in all areas and to complementing the work in subjects with a discrete provision, possibly as part of a PSHE programme;
3. use the CDI’s current recommended framework for careers education as a basis to develop framework of learning outcomes tailored to the needs of pupils in the school;
4. find out what support is available for career guidance in the area, from a careers hub, the LEP, the local authority and the local collaborative outreach programme for HE;
5. take advantage of the careers leader training programme while it remains fully funded;
6. lead sessions on an introduction to career guidance if the school is part of a partnership for initial teacher training;
7. work with the senior leader responsible for CPD to make sure the school’s programme includes sessions on career guidance;
8. commit to working towards, and achieving, the Quality in Careers Standard;
9. find out if there are any sources of funding locally to support working towards the Quality in Careers Standard;
10. include a statement about the school’s position with regard to the Quality in Careers Standard in the details about the careers programme that the school is required to publish.
I remain hopeful that the Government will not only continue to support and fund the Careers Strategy beyond this year but also incorporate actions to improve careers education. In the meantime, there is much that a careers leader can do, and indeed many are doing. It is by taking actions such as those suggested above that distinguishes a careers leader from a careers co-ordinator.
David Andrews is an independent consultant, a former policy adviser to the CDI and co-author of The Careers Leader Handbook. He has recently published a second edition of his book on Careers Education in Schools.